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  • How to Keep It Going

    For many older adults, motivation to keep exercising and doing physical activities isn't a problem. Learn their secret and how to get yourself off the couch.

  • "Definitely NOT!" That's what 75-year-old Emma King told us when we asked her if she ever intended to stop exercising. Ms. King lives in Durham, North Carolina, and has taken long walks at least 4 or 5 days a week for years. Last year, she took part in a study of exercise for older adults and added stretching to her weekly routine. "I can really tell the difference if I miss 2 or 3 days. I don't know what it would be like not to exercise," she said.

    For many older adults, motivation to keep exercising and doing physical activities isn't a problem. They say that regular physical activity makes them feel so much better that it would be hard to stop.

    Others say that, while physical activity makes them feel better, a little extra motivation helps them get going. For example, Georgia Burnette, 68, of Amherst, New York, told us that she used to put on headphones and listen to recorded books borrowed from the library to make her 40-minute walks more interesting. Now, she mall-walks for an hour, 5 days a week, with a friend. Having that companionship is a good motivator, Ms. Burnette said.

    Physical activity needs to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. So does staying motivated!

    Recording your scores and watching them improve can be an excellent motivator to exercise. On the other hand, if you see that your scores have improved by only a few seconds or just one or two lifts of a weight, you might get discouraged.

    Putting it in perspective might help. While your test scores might rise by what looks like only a tiny amount, in terms of real-life benefits, those slight improvements are multiplied many times over as you include them in your everyday activities, probably without even realizing it. You incorporate that extra little bit of endurance and extra little bit of strength into everything you do, and it adds up to a lot.

    But no matter how enthusiastic you are about exercise, there may be times when you need extra motivation. It's common for beginning exercisers, especially those who are frail, to make fast progress at first. You might get discouraged when the improvements you were making taper off at times.

    These leveling-off periods are normal. You are probably doing your activities correctly, and you are probably still benefiting from them. Often, these leveling-off periods mean that it's time to gradually make your activities more challenging.

    For times that you need extra motivation, try the following:

    • Ask someone to be your exercise buddy. Many of the older adults we talked to agreed that having someone to exercise with helps keep them going.
    • Follow Georgia Burnette's advice: Listen to recorded books or music while you do endurance activities.
    • Set a goal, and decide on a reward you will get when you reach it.
    • Give yourself physical activity homework assignments for the next day or the next week.
    • Think of your exercise sessions as appointments, and mark them on your calendar.
    • Keep a record of what you do and of your progress. Understand that there will be times that you don't show rapid progress and that you are still benefiting from your activities during those times.
    • Plan ahead for vacations, bad weather and house guests. For example, you might want to have an exercise video so you can exercise indoors when the weather is bad.

    Sticking With It: What Works

    According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report, you are more likely to keep doing physical activities if you:

    • Think that, overall, you will benefit from them
    • Include activities you enjoy
    • Feel you can do the activities correctly and safely
    • Have access to the activities on a regular basis
    • Can fit the activities into your daily schedule
    • Feel that the activities don't impose financial or social costs you aren't willing to take on
    • Have few negative consequences from doing your activities (such consequences might include injury, lost time and negative peer pressure)
    In other words, you are more likely to stick with your exercises if you set yourself up to succeed from the start. You can help do that by choosing realistic goals, learning to do the exercises correctly and safely and charting your progress to see your improvement. Take a minute to think carefully about the points in the list above before you start planning your exercises and activities.

    Acknowledge Your Efforts

    When it comes to motivation, the first month is crucial. If you can increase your physical activity for a month and still keep going after that, you will have passed a critical landmark. It's a good sign that you are on your way to making exercise and physical activity regular, life-long habits.

    Most people like to do for themselves. For many older adults, just the idea of improving or maintaining their health and independence is enough motivation to exercise.

  • Used with permission. ©2015 Walmart. All Rights Reserved. 

    Important Walmart Disclaimer: All content provided is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to substitute for the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a medical professional. Consult your medical professional for guidance before changing or undertaking any diet, exercise or health program, or before using any prescription or over-the-counter drug. Neither the author nor assumes any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter. Walmart does not sponsor, recommend or endorse any third party, product, service or information provided on this site. If you have dietary restrictions and/or allergies, always read the ingredient list carefully for all products prior to consumption. If the ingredient list is not available on the product, check with the product manufacturer, or do not consume the product.

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